David Leigh, S.J., a longtime member of SU’s Jesuit community, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest this year. (Pat O'Leary, S.J., who spent many years at SU before moving to Spokane in 2016, is celebrating his 70th anniversary of entering the Society of Jesus.)
Reflecting on his 50th anniversary as a priest, Father Leigh recalls, “The most memorable parts of that day on June 15, 1968 were being in St. James Cathedral for ordination to the priesthood after 13 years of training as a Jesuit and seeing all my family (my brother has seven children) and lots of old friends and former students. A day of strong remembrances, thanks and grace.”
Since then, Father Leigh has served in myriad roles—and touched many lives.
At SU alone, Father Leigh has worn many a hat, including director of the Honors Program for 10 years (1983-93), director of the Core Curriculum for a decade (1990-2000) and chair of the English Department (six years).
In his “spare time,” Father Leigh has taken on numerous other responsibilities on campus and beyond. He has also enjoyed offering Mass in parishes, schools, homes and other places, especially for students he has taught at Gonzaga U and Seattle U and many parishes in Seattle (including his home parish of Christ the King in the North End). And he has led retreats and alumni seminars, taught overseas, presented social justice workshops and projects in the Northwest and has been involved with peace and ecology movements.
Then there’s his research and writing. A noted and prolific scholar who was honored as the 2017-2018 recipient of the Father James B. McGoldrick Fellowship, Father Leigh has authored two books, Modern Spiritual Autobiographies and Apocalypse in 20th Century Fiction, as well as 50-some articles.
What Father Leigh values most in looking back on his 50 years and counting as a priest are the relationships he has formed with the people he has gotten to know. “I most enjoy working with faculty and staff in retreats, workshops, personal relations, friendships and work for ‘faith and justice,’ the Jesuit goal in all our activities. I also enjoy teaching and working with students, especially in English and Theology classes, retreats and workshops, living in the dorms, and helping them with grad school and job transitions, as well as helping some with their spiritual growth and lives.
“I find joy in seeing people I have taught or worked with as a priest find happiness and peace in their own lives through my teaching, preaching, sacraments (and other activities).”